1959. The Korean War has been over for six years. Corporal Rudy Spruance, thanks to a little hometown trouble, has just enlisted in the U.S. Army.
The next thing he knows he is being savaged by mosquitoes in one of the most remote places in the world, a military hospital in Qangattarsa, Greenland that doesn't officially exist. "You'll want to scratch," he is told when he wakes up in one of the beds. But Rudy wants to do more than scratch. He wants to know what this strange place is for and why he's there.
And then he discovers the Wing. The Wing is a room of dead people who are still alive - the remnants of American soldiers in Korea whose hearts somehow still beat, men who have been reduced to mere portions of humans. They are too damaged to ever send home and their families believe them gone. It's the most peaceful place Rudy has ever been, and he befriends the only mentally coherent inhabitant, Guy X.
Rudy also falls in love with Irene, a sergeant. And he finds himself starting up a base newspaper. And all the time the days are getting shorter. Soon the Stark Raving Dark of permanent night will be upon them all. As things degenerate and the future of Qangattarsa and the men who live their strange half-lives there becomes increasingly doubtful, Rudy realises he must find a way to save the people he loves - and himself.
This is a moving, powerful and very funny portrait of human absurdity and tragedy that joins Catch-22 as a classic of its kind.